Spoilers ahead for A Series Of Unfortunate Events Season 2 and the book series. One of the most significant plot points in Season 2 of Netflix's A Series Of Unfortunate Events has to do with one of its smallest details — a sugar bowl. Esme (Lucy Punch), one of Count Olaf's accomplices, insists throughout the season that someone named Beatrice stole her sugar bowl, and she desperately needs to get it back. As those who read the books will be well aware, Beatrice refers to Beatrice Baudelaire — the orphans' mother. So, why did Beatrice steal the sugar bowl?
Well, according to the books, a lot of mystery surrounds if Beatrice was really even the one who stole the sugar bowl in the first place. Lemony Snicket, the series' narrator who also is a major character in the saga, claims in The Slippery Slope that he is the one who actually stole the bowl from Esme. The books hint that Esme only deemed Beatrice the culprit because she happened to be at Esme's house when it was stolen, but still, why would this bowl even be so important that anyone would want to steal it at all? Both sides are frantically searching for the sugar bowl, so it must be the key to some greater puzzle, right? As it turns out, the sugar bowl is one of the most enduring mysteries of the entire series. It seems that everyone wants it, but even when the books come to a close with The End, the details of the sugar bowl and what it actually contains are still completely obscured.
It's definitely teased by Snicket that the bowl is used to hide something, but it's never revealed what exactly that is. Mentions of tea sets and sugar bowls abound — even in passing — in the books, but still, no definitive answers are given, even as the Baudelaires head off into a gloomy sunset. That hasn't stopped fans from speculating for years about what exactly the significance of the dish is, and why people from both sides of the V.F.D. — both good and bad — want their hands on it.
"What we do know is that Lemony Snicket stole it from [Esme], and it's the most desired thing on both sides of the schism — the kind of thing people have died to get," one Reddit user, IGuessIllBeAnonymous, wrote on the boards dedicated to the series. "Of course, that said, its contents, though an alluring mystery, don't really matter in the slightest. Much like the Snicket file in the few books before its introduction, it's a MacGuffan [sic]."
Others, like Reddit user tpowpoww, even speculate that though the books never offer a solid explanation of the sugar bowl, perhaps the Netflix show will. Some, though, would rather the mystery live on. "I LOVE that the sugar bowl is never revealed, because. warning, cliche incoming, that's the point," TheWombatFromHell wrote on the same thread. "It just doesn't matter, and it's supposed to make you look beyond the object and into the story as a whole."
Apparently, though, there is a solid answer to what the significance of the sugar bowl is. Daniel Handler, the actual identity of Lemony Snicket, knows what the sugar bowl's meaning is, and he's said that every once in a while, a fan nails it. "The mystery of the sugar bowl is clear enough that one that about reader a year writes me and has figured it out, and that fills me with pleasure," Handler told The Observer. "That makes me think it’s not too obscure. If no one ever wrote me about it I would think, 'Oh I didn’t do it enough.' But because one person a year who will write me and say, 'I figured it out.' The whole answer of the Sugar Bowl is solvable."
OK, so basically what this all means is that I am now extremely motivated to dig out my dusty middle school copies of A Series Of Unfortunate Events books and devote the rest of my life to solving the case of the sugar bowl once and for all. Anyone want to join me in a late night spiral into old fan theory threads? There's still a third season to come of the Netflix adaptation, so perhaps the show will give viewers a more solid grasp on the meaning of the sugar bowl. Until then it will, as it's always been, remain a mystery.